I am reading a wonderful account of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s extraordinarily rich life. The biography, by Alfonso Scirocco, was very generously given to me as a present by his nephew, who carries the same name and is a colleague in the EESC. In England, every village has an ‘Elizabeth I slept here’ panel. In Italy, its Garibaldi. His name is everywhere. And now I understand why; he got just about everywhere! I knew about his exploits in Latin America but confess I never knew he stayed in New York or that he was accorded a hero’s welcome in Newcastle. What I had also forgotten was that Garibaldi, like Mazzini, was a European patriot, supporting the creation of a European federation. They believed that a unified Germany could play a leadership role in that context. I am closing this post with an extract from a 10 April 1865 letter Garibaldi wrote to the German revolutionary Karl Blind which, it seems to me, has some uncanny echoes for the present day:
‘The progress of humanity seems to have come to a halt, and you with your superior intelligence will know why. The reason is that the world lacks a nation which possesses true leadership. Such leadership, of course, is required not to dominate other peoples, but to lead them along the path of duty, to lead them toward the brotherhood of nations where all the barriers erected by egoism will be destroyed. We need the kind of leadership which, in the true tradition of medieval chivalry, would devote itself to redressing wrongs, supporting the weak, sacrificing momentary gains and material advantage for the much finer and more satisfying achievement of relieving the suffering of our fellow men. We need a nation courageous enough to give us a lead in this direction. It would rally to its cause all those who are suffering wrong or who aspire to a better life, and all those who are now enduring foreign oppression.
‘This role of world leadership, left vacant as things are today, might well be occupied by the German nation. You Germans, with your grave and philosophic character, might well be the ones who could win the confidence of others and guarantee the future stability of the international community. Let us hope, then, that you can use your energy to overcome your moth-eaten thirty tyrants of the various German states. Let us hope that in the center of Europe you can then make a unified nation out of your fifty millions. All the rest of us would eagerly and joyfully follow you.’